About Field Sites
Dakota Coteau Field School (DCFS) is a terrestrial NEON field site located in Stuntsman County, North Dakota, approximately 160 km (100 mi.) northeast of Bismarck, in an area known as the "Prairie Pothole Region." This region includes a patchwork of grasslands, agricultural, and wetland/aquatic communities embedded in a matrix of small agrarian communities. This site is managed by the State of North Dakota Land Trust and is moderately grazed throughout the year. NEON sampling at DCFS occurs across nonadjacent land parcels interspersed by private land with a total sampling area of 2.6 km2 (642 acres). DCFS is part of NEON's Northern Plains Domain (D09). D09 has two other terrestrial field sites and two aquatic field sites. DCFS is colocated with the Prairie Lake at Dakota Coteau Field School aquatic site (PRLA). 
Climate in the region is continental, with wide-ranging temperature fluctuations, both daily and seasonally. The area experiences temperature extremes, with bitterly cold temperatures in the winter and very hot temperatures in the summer. The lack of mountain ranges in the state allows for cold arctic air masses to drop into the state during the winter, bringing bitter cold spells. The mean annual temperature in the vicinity is 4.9°C (40.8°F) and mean annual precipitation is 489 mm (19.3 in.). Precipitation varies from year to year, with more precipitation falling during the summer months when thunderstorm activity is the highest. Weather exhibits extreme variability with periodic droughts, hailstorms, fluctuations in temperature, and frequent strong winds. The most severe storms can produce hail, tornadoes, or damaging straight-line winds.    
The geology at this site is characterized by glacial sediments of mud, clay, and silt. More specifically, the parent materials at DCFS are mostly Wisconsin age, fine-loamy glacial till and alluvium derived from the till. In addition to the till, the northeastern section of the site consists of sandy and gravelly glacial outwash.  
The soil order at this site is Mollisol. The soil family is fine-loamy, mixed, superactive, frigid Typic Haplustolls. 
DCFS has a matrix of small lakes, ponds, and ephemeral prairie potholes. The Prairie Lake (PRLA) aquatic site is located within the DCFS sampling boundary. PRLA is a small "terminal wetland" lake, containing mostly sand substrate, with some macrophytes (sedges) and few areas of pebble/cobble. The bank material at the lake is peat and sedges.  
The Northern Plains Domain is dominated by prairie grasslands, including a combination of short and mid-stature grasses, and croplands. Dominant vegetation types include silverberry (Elaeagnus commutata), Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pretensis), and ﬁreberry hawthorn (Crataegus chrysocarpa).  
Animals native to the Northern Plains include elk (Cervus canadensis), white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), red fox (Vulpes vulpes), coyotes (Canis latrans), plains spadefoot toad (Spea bombifrons), smooth green snake (Opheodrys vernalis), sharp-tailed grouse (Tympanuchus phasianellus), and several other species of birds and small mammals. Because of the ponds at this site, there is a high abundance and diversity of mosquitoes. Birds are also abundant here, especially aquatic birds such as ducks and pelicans. NEON provides data on five types of wildlife at DCFS: birds, small mammals, ground beetles, mosquitoes, and ticks.   
Past Land Management and Use
Native American presence in the area dates back to 10,000 years ago, following the retreat of the continental glaciers. Before European settlers arrived, the Dakota or Lakota nation, as well as the Assiniboine, Cheyenne, Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara groups were present in what is now North Dakota. Native Americans and Euro-Americans came into contact in the 18th Century and further American settlement commenced in 1861 following the establishment of North Dakota as a territory. In 1889, when North Dakota became a state, the federal government gifted more than 12140 km2 (3 million acres) of land to the state through the Enabling Act. The land was to be held in trust for the purpose of funding public education in the state and was established in every North Dakota township for this purpose. Public schools were built on some parcels of land, and others were used to generate funds for schools through selling mineral rights or leasing land to local farmers for grazing. The land at this site has been transformed by agricultural activities over the last 150 years; it has no record of historical tilling.   
Current Land Management and Use
DCFS was established on state trust land that is managed by the North Dakota Department of Trust Lands. It is located on land that has been leased for grazing for more than 100 years. Today, the site is grazed at some times during the year, but not continuously, and the grazing intensity is lower than at the Northern Great Plains Research Lab site in Domain 09. A North Dakota university planned to establish a field school on the site during the NEON construction period. While the school was never funded or built, Dakota Coteau Field School sites take their names from this plan. Other land in the surrounding area has been converted to corn and soybean production.  
NEON Site Establishment
NEON site characterization at DCFS was completed in 2014. Plot establishment at DCFS began in 2016, and TOS data and TIS data became available in 2016. The site transitioned to full operations in October 2017.
 Terrestrial Observation System (TOS) Site Characterization Report: Domain 09. NEON.DOC.003893vB
 U.S. Geological Survey, 2005, Mineral Resources Data System: U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, Virginia. https://mrdata.usgs.gov/mrds/
 Herman, G. S. and Johnson, L. A. (2008). Habitats of North Dakota, North Dakota Studies Project.
 Data portal: https://data.neonscience.org/data-products/explore?site=DCFS
 Thomson, Kyle. 2017. NEON Site Level Plot Summary, Dakota Coteau Field School (DCFS), June 2017. https://data.neonscience.org/documents/10179/2361410/DCFS_Soil_SiteSumm…
 Aquatic Instrument System (AIS) Site Characterization Report: Domain 09. NEON.DOC.001670vB.
 Terrestrial Instrument System (TIS, FIU) Site Characterization Supporting Data: Domain 09. NEON.DOC.011055vB
 North Dakota Department of Trust Lands: https://www.land.nd.gov/mission-vision-history
 State Historical Society of North Dakota: https://www.history.nd.gov/ndhistory/firstpeople.html
 PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State University, http://prism.oregonstate.edu,created 4 Feb 2004
Remote sensing surveys of this field site collect lidar, spectrometer and high-resolution RGB camera data.
This site has a flux/meteorological tower that is 8 m (26 ft) tall with four measurement levels. The tower top extends above the vegetation canopy to allow sensors mounted at the top and along the tower to capture the full profile of atmospheric conditions from the top of the vegetation canopy to the ground. The tower collects physical and chemical properties of atmosphere-related processes, such as humidity, wind, and net ecosystem gas exchange. Precipitation data are collected by a tipping bucket at the top of the tower.
One phenocam is attached to the top and the bottom of the tower. Here we show the images from the most recent hour. The full collection of images can be viewed on the Phenocam Gallery - click on either of the images below.
Soil Sensor Measurements
This site has five soil plots placed in an array within the airshed of the flux tower. Photosynthetically Active Radiation (PAR) at soil surface, soil heat flux, and solar radiation are measured at the soil surface in each soil plot. Soil moisture, soil temperature, and CO2 concentration are measured at multiple depths in each soil plot. There is no throughfall at this site given the low vegetation stature of the area.
At terrestrial sites, field ecologists observe birds and plants, and sample ground beetles, mosquitoes, small mammals, soil microbes, and ticks. Lab analyses are carried out to provide further data on DNA sequences, pathogens, soils, sediments, and biogeochemistry. Learn more about terrestrial observations or explore this site's data products.
Field Site Data
North Dakota Land Trust
Site Access Allowed
Site Access Details
Researchers should coordinate with the site manager.
NEON Field Operations Office
Domain 09 Support Facility
NEON Field Operations Address
1503 Business Loop East
Jamestown, ND 58401
NEON Field Operations Phone
Mean Annual Temperature
Mean Annual Precipitation
Dominant Wind Direction
Mean Canopy Height
Dominant NLCD Classes
Average number of green days
Average first greenness increase date
Average peak green date
Average first greenness decrease date
Average minimum greenness date
Number of Tower Levels
USGS Geology Unit
USGS Geology Name
Glacial Sediment on Thrust Masses
USGS Lithologic Constituents
Unbedded, unsorted mixture of clay, silt, sand, and pebbles, and a few cobbles and boulders
USGS Geology Age
Pleistocene to Holocene
Megapit Soil Family
Fine, loamy, mixed, superactive, frigid. Typic Haplustolls.
Related Field Sites
Other Domain D09 Field Sites
Other Field Sites in ND